The number of fatal dog attacks in the UK have soared in recent years - hitting a record high in 2022
The number of fatal dog attacks in the UK have soared in recent years - hitting a record high in 2022
They are social media stars and status symbols beloved by athletes, rappers and pet owners across the country.

But there are calls for the controversial American Bully XL to be banned in Britain as shocking data has revealed the breed has been involved in the majority of fatal dog attacks in the UK since 2021.

Stan Rawlinson, a dog behaviourist with more than 20 years of experience, was called as an expert witness for the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act and specialises in dog aggression.

He told MailOnline that the Bully XL is 'very, very reactive' and warned deaths caused by the breed could soar in the coming months and years.

Echoing warnings by PETA members and vets in the country, Mr Rawlinson explained: 'We averaged three dog attack deaths a year for the past 25 years. From that, we had ten last year with up to seven related to the XL Bully. This is only going to get worse.

'They could kill you in about a minute and the worst thing is no one knows how many there are in the UK. There are at least thousands but we just don't know for sure.

'Amateurs are tinkering with DNA, giving these dogs enhanced muscles, trying to create monsters.

'And they've managed it. It's going to get considerably worse.'

Deaths caused by dog attacks have more than doubled in the past two years, from four in 2021 to a record ten in 2022, and Mr Rawlinson says the rise in the number of bullies is a clear factor in this.

Two of four fatal dog attacks in the UK in 2021 involved a Bully XL, with the number increasing to at least six out of ten last year.

So far in 2023, there have been at least two fatal bully attacks - with fears the breed could have also been involved in three other dog killings.

Online adverts selling the breed and the surging number of the animals seized by police suggests the number of the dogs in the country could be rising rapidly.

Among those killed by bullies were ten-year-old Jack Lis in November 2021 and 17-month-old Bella-Rae Birch in March 2022.

Among those killed by bullies was ten-year-old Jack Lis in November 2021. Pictured is the dog that killed Jack Lis
Among those killed by bullies was ten-year-old Jack Lis in November 2021. Pictured is the dog that killed Jack Lis
Mr Rawlinson added: 'I wouldn't go near one. I've been around all sorts of dogs, even the most dangerous. But these XL Bully dogs are very reactive. They're like the old Roman dogs of war that attacked Britain and helped forge an empire across the continent.

'More people are going to die unless we do something about it.

'They aren't an official breed, it's impossible to track them. The American Pitbull has been banned since 1991 but they are still coming in. That dog is the starting point for the XL Bully and more are being brought in every day.'

Elisa Allen, from PETA, believes that all Bully XLs should be spayed or neutered to stop the breed spreading in Britain.

She explained how the breed's powerful bodies and strong jaws make them a threat to humans and also pointed out how the dog was bred for bull-baiting and fighting - not as a family pet.

She said: 'It is an undeniable fact that most serious and fatal dog attacks are by bully breeds. These breeds were intentionally developed long ago for "gameness", meaning they are prey-focused and hard to distract once in attack mode and have extremely muscular, powerful bodies with strong jaws.

'When dogs attack, it can be because they have been tormented, beaten, poorly socialised, isolated, caged, or chained by a current or previous owner, but no one can pretend that owners are solely to blame, as these breeds were selectively bred for bull-baiting and fighting.

'We can prevent more attacks by banning the breeding of these types of dogs - which can be done by mandating that all bully dogs be spayed or neutered.'

The exact number of Bully XL dogs in the UK is unclear as the Kennel Club doesn't officially recognise the breed.

However, social media is awash with bullies and, this week, the Met revealed that it has seized 44 American bullies so far in 2023, up to May.

This is almost three times the next most common breed and means that, on average, the force confiscated up to two bullies a week.

To put it in greater context, in 2018 and 2019, no American bullies were seized by the Met.

These figures only apply to London, and with the majority of fatal attacks taking place outside the capital, there are potentially thousands of bullies across the UK.

These numbers are believed to have soared during lockdown, as dog ownership surged while people were stuck at home.

And the rise of TikTok, as well as the popularity of bullies with major celebrities such rapper Drake and Little Mix Leigh-Anne Pinnock, have made the dog a status symbol.

Dr Lawrence Newport, a law and criminology lecturer at Royal Holloway University recently published a detailed report on the Bully XL.

He told MailOnline that the dog's breeding for fighting posed a big risk to children.

'The past two years has seen an unprecedented rise in the number of people killed by dogs, including several children,' he said.

'American Bully XLs (closely related to the banned Pitbull breed but larger, able to reach weights of 60kg) are disproportionately responsible for these deaths.

'Retrievers were bred to retrieve. Pointers to point. But these dogs were historically bred for fighting so we should not be surprised that even good owners have found themselves, or their children, maimed or even killed by these dogs.

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